A veteran police officer today failed in his bid to challenge a speeding fine he had received after escorting Cold Chisel to their concert in Margaret River in 2011.
Sergeant Craig Anderson was fined $700 and ordered to pay $1620 in court costs in the Busselton Magistrate's Court for exceeding the speed limit by 34km/h on Bussell Highway. The officer was trying to get the band to their concert after their plane was delayed and was travelling at 114km/h in an 80km/h zone.
It is expected Sgt Anderson will also lose five demerit points but he will not lose his driver's licence.
Defence lawyer Lyn Zinenko argued Sgt Anderson was trying to “avert a disaster” by ensuring the band got to the concert in time to avoid anti-social behaviour.
She said police resources were already stretched and the potential for conflict was heightened due to the “perfect storm” of school leavers celebrations and the Margaret River bushfire.
But Magistrate Bromfield said he was not convinced it was reasonable for Sgt Anderson, who has been a police officer for 24 years, to exceed the speed limit and did not believe he should be exempt from the road rules.
Sgt Anderson told the court he had obeyed the speed limit for the majority of the journey but decided to speed, where it was safe to do so, to allow the convoy of three officers to overtake two vehicles which were travelling 10 to 15km/h below the speed limit.
He said he wanted to get past the vehicles to stop people noticing he had a celebrity in the car after one woman had almost caused an accident by stopping in the middle of the road.
“The last thing I wanted to do was to be cruising past traffic at the speed limit with Jimmy Barnes in the back of the car,” he said.
“The whole intention of the escort was for it to be smooth, clean and not attract attention.”
Former South West superintendent Lawrence Panaia told the court he gave permission for the escort to go ahead but not to exceed the speed limit.
But Sgt Anderson said he had “autonomy” as the officer in charge of the Dunsborough police station to decide whether to speed based on changing circumstances such as when cars were not clearing the way for the escort.
“My order was to conduct an unimpeded escort (so) where the escort became impeded and vehicles would not yield…I made the decision, which I have the power to do, to exceed the speed limit.”